2005-2006 Chevrolet Cobalt
2005 • 2006
Rick Carlton has served as a professional automotive/motorsports journalist, writer, researcher, editor, and publisher for thirty years. He has also served as a press/media consultant for a range of professional motorsports organizations. He contributed several vehicle profile articles to Crutchfield's Research Garage.
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Overview of the Chevy Cobalt
The Chevrolet Cobalt rolled out in 2005, and has served as the small-car successor to the venerable Cavalier since then. After nearly 22 years of the staid Cavalier, it was clearly time for a change. The Cobalt boasts upgraded ‘everything,’ including a complete suspension and chassis re-design, plus a host of new standard amenities. As a result, the Cobalt did a pretty good job of holding its own in the small-car market.
The car was available as either a coupe or sedan, with the 4-door offering both LS and LT variants. The LS was the standard 4-door version of the coupe, while the LT offered all kinds of luxury interior appointments, including leather seats and an upgraded sound system. The upgraded stereo was also found in the Supercharged SS coupe.
The Cobalt's factory radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Factory stereo system
The coupe and the LS sedan were equipped with the standard sound system: an AM/FM/CD receiver plus a 4-speaker array. The LT sedan featured an upgraded 7-speaker Pioneer sound system with the same stereo, in addition to the other luxury upgrades. Both body styles also had an OnStar® option.
The Pioneer system added tweeters to the front doors and a subwoofer in the trunk of the car. The system was powered by a Pioneer amplifier located above the driver's kick panel.
Replacing your factory radio
The factory radio is entirely enclosed by plastic trim, and located above the climate controls. As a result, getting to the receiver to remove it and replace it with a new unit can be a delicate process. Before you choose a new receiver, there are some ‘gotchas’ you need to know about.
- When replacing your factory radio, you'll need a special integration adapter in order for the new stereo to work with the car's electronics system. There are two versions of this adapter, depending on whether or not your car has OnStar. If you have OnStar, then you need the PAC OS-311B adapter. If you don't have OnStar, then you need the PAC C2R-GM11B.
- Next, if you want to retain the Driver Info Center, your new stereo has to be single-DIN size and you need a second integration adapter—the Metra 99-3303.
- If you don't care about retaining the Driver Info Center, then you can get either a single-DIN or double-DIN receiver.
- Finally, if you want a double-DIN receiver, make sure it doesn't have a fold-down face. That style won't work in this dash.
All of this might sound confusing, but if you purchase your new receiver from Crutchfield, you don't have to worry. Your Crutchfield advisor will make sure you get the right parts, and you'll get a deep discount on the price. We'll also include our one-of-a-kind Crutchfield MasterSheet™ to guide you through the process.
The rear panel in this opening might need to be removed when installing a new stereo (Crutchfield Research Photo)
To get to the receiver, first pry off the trip meter switch panel, disconnect the wire harness, and set it aside. Once that’s done, go the glove box and carefully pry the trim away from above the accessory space and remove it. Next, pry off the trim surrounding the receiver/climate control panel.
Once you have all the trim panels off, remove four 7mm retaining screws, and pull the receiver assembly out of the enclosure. Disconnect the receiver from the wire harness, and then take the receiver out of the assembly.
Some new receivers will be too deep to fit into the dash. In these cases, you'll have to use a hacksaw to remove the rear structure that supported the factory radio. The Crutchfield website will alert you if the stereo you're looking at is too deep, but specifically, this situation applies to any stereo more than 6-5/8" deep.
Tools needed: Small flat-blade screwdriver, panel tool, 7mm and 8mm sockets, plus a ratchet and extension, hacksaw blade (for stereos requiring a depth of more than 6-5/8")
Steering wheel audio controls
It's relatively easy to retain the steering wheel audio controls when you install a new stereo in your Cobalt. When you enter your vehicle information, our database will choose the adapter you need to make your factory steering wheel controls work with your new receiver. You'll also get a discount on it when you buy it with your new receiver.
Replacing your factory speakers
New speakers will add a lot of life to your Cobalt's stereo system.
The Cobalt's factory door speaker (Crutchfield Research Photo)
In both the standard and upgraded stereo systems, the Cobalt’s factory front speaker is a 6-3/4" model placed in the lower front portion of the door panel. Most 6-3/4" speakers will fit the Cobalt's doors. You can also install 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers with the help of a mounting bracket, which is supplied by Crutchfield with your speaker order. There are no wiring harnesses available for the Cobalt, so you'll have to cut off the factory plugs and connect the wires to the speaker terminals using quick slides.
To replace the speakers, you have to remove the door panel. Begin at the top of the door by prying the sail-panel away from its retaining clips. From there, move to the door latch assembly and remove the single 7mm screw, which is hidden by a round cover. Next, lift up the plastic cover from the door pull well and remove two more 7mm screws hidden there.
Pull up the control panel, starting at the rear edge, and unplug the harness. If you have manual windows, remove the window crank before pulling off the panel. After that, go to the door panel edge and remove the two plastic retaining plugs, then disconnect the door latch cable from its assembly. Finally, lift the panel off the door and set it aside. To remove the speaker, simply remove four 7mm screws and lift the unit off its bracket.
To install a new speaker, all you'll usually need to do is remove the old one and mount the new one using a mounting bracket. But on some Cobalts, you'll have to drill new screw holes in the door. It's an extra step, but not that hard. Hold the speaker in place, mark the holes, then use a 1/8" bit to drill the new screw holes. Always wear eye protection when drilling, and be careful not to drill into any wiring.
The factory tweeter (Crutchfield Research Photo)
In the case of the upgraded Pioneer system, the tweeter is located in the sail panel. Remove the sail panel from its retaining clips, then disconnect the tweeter from the car’s wiring harness.
To install a new tweeter in this location, you'll have to fabricate a mounting bracket to hold the tweeter in place. Our inexpensive universal backstrap works very well for this. As with the speakers, there are no wiring adapters available, so you'll have to cut off the factory connector and attach the wires to the tweeter.
Rear speaker as seen from the trunk (Crutchfield Research Photo)
The Cobalt's rear speakers consist of a pair of 6"x9" speakers located in the rear deck. There's plenty of room to mount new 6x9's, or you can install 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers with an adapter plate. As with the front speakers, the adapter is free from Crutchfield with your speaker order. And also like the front speakers, there aren't any wiring adapters available, so cut off the factory connectors and attach the speaker wires to the speaker terminals using quick slides.
Removal and replacement are pretty straightforward. First, lay the rear seat down to expose the rear storage area, then pry up the rear headrest covers and remove them. Next unscrew the mounting bolts, followed by the headrests themselves. In the sedan, you have to remove a screw from the side pillar, then pull off the trim panel. There's no screw in the coupe, so the trim panel can be pried off.
Once the trim panels are free, pull the edges of the rear-deck batting away and lift up the rear deck. Once you have the deck up, simply unscrew the four screws securing the speaker, lift the speaker off its bracket, and unplug the speaker harness.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, small flat-blade screwdriver, panel tool, 7mm, 8mm, and 1/2" sockets, ratchet and extension, Torx T15 driver, plus a drill and 1/8" bit
The subwoofer in the Pioneer system (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Bass in your Cobalt
The Cobalt’s upgraded Pioneer stereo system included a 10" dual-voice coil subwoofer mounted in a plastic enclosure in the trunk. Crutchfield doesn’t currently recommend replacing this sub with any specific component subwoofer. Doing so would likely require some modification of the enclosure, and you'd likely need to add a new amp because the factory amp isn't all that powerful.
With or without the Pioneer option, there's plenty of room in the rear of the car for a subwoofer box. You can fit most enclosures for 12" or smaller subwoofers. Or if you want to conserve your cargo space, you could install a powered subwoofer.
Other options for your Cobalt
Here are some other ideas to improve your Cobalt:
iPod® and Bluetooth® adapters
There are no adapters that will allow you to control your iPod or iPhone® from the Cobalt's factory stereo. You'll have to rely on a basic FM transmitter to play your music through the stereo. A better option would be get a Bluetooth adapter that integrates with your stereo so you can stream music from your device to the stereo. And of course, this would also give you hands-free calling capability.
Installing a security system in your Cobalt isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's definitely a good idea. Our Crutchfield Advisors can help figure out what you need, but we usually recommend taking your car and new gear to a professional.
Good, Better, Best
Good: The Cobalt’s speakers are okay, but you’d do well to replace them with better speakers. This is particularly true if you are going to keep the factory stereo.
Better: Replacing the stereo is the next step in improving your in-car experience, especially if you want to add modern conveniences like Bluetooth capability or a USB input. Then add some bass in the form of a subwoofer (or two) in the trunk.
Best: Finish off your system by adding a 4-channel amp to power the speakers. This will give you a balanced system with plenty of power to bring out all the details in your music.
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